Pro-Democracy March In Hong Kong

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A pro-democracy march was held in Hong Kong on Saturday, marking the ninth anniversary of the British hand over of the former colony.

Police estimate 19,000 people started the march, but the crowd grew as the demonstrators moved through the city chanting slogans and blowing whistles.

Earlier in the day, thousands took part in a parade organized by the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions. Police said 40,000 people participated.

In a move that political analysts say probably gave the pro-democracy march a boost this year, one of Hong Kong's best known and respected political figures, former chief secretary Anson Chan, participated for the first time.

Hong Kong has been governed since 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that affords it a high degree of autonomy from the Communist Party-led mainland. However, Beijing has dictated the scope and pace of political reforms.

In 2003 and 2004, half a million or more people joined the march, upset at the weak economy and the government's mismanagement of various issues. But last year after the city's unpopular leader Tung Chee-hwa resigned, the number of participants fell to around 20,000.

With the economy in good shape, many expected even fewer people this year, but Chan and others drew a distinction between economics and politics.

"The fact that the economy is now on a strong path does not mean that the voice and the aspiration for universal suffrage and for democracy is any less," Chan told reporters before the march.

"I would say that without democracy one cannot really have sustained economic growth."

Benjamin Leung, a 40-year-old elderly care worker, said that while Hong Kong was performing strongly on the financial front, life for ordinary people was no better.

"Of course the Heng Seng (stock market) index has reached new highs, but for Hong Kong people, things are not improving," he said.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the outspoken leader of Hong Kong's Catholic community, said perseverance would lead to results. "If we persist, our aim will be met," he told Catholics praying for the march.

The struggle for freedom continues all around the globe. China will be under increasing internal pressure to reform it's system as the economy continues to grow. Middle classes don't much care for communism as a political system.

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